CEDAR CITY – U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart quashed any rumors Tuesday that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may reintroduce Mexican and Grey wolves into Utah.
Stewart confronted USFWS Director Dan Ashe during a hearing with the House Interior Appropriations Committee, where congressional leaders determine how much money they will allocate to each agency.
Stewart told Ashe he was concerned about rumors he had heard that the agency planned to bring the wolves into his home state.
The move, if executed, would increase the species’ numbers. However, Stewart said the animals are not native to the area and do not belong in Utah.
Ashe adamantly denied any legitimacy to the rumor.
“We are not proposing to reintroduce wolves into Utah,” he said.
Bringing the Mexican or Grey wolf into Utah would be a bad idea and only create more federal regulations for the state to comply with, Stewart said via email to Cedar City News Wednesday.
“Utahns from St. George to Bear Lake don’t want wolves reintroduced to Utah, and they have been concerned that the Fish and Wildlife Service is going to propose to bring the Mexican Wolf into Utah for recovery efforts,” he said. “The species is not native to Utah, and introducing the wolf into our communities would create numerous burdensome federal regulations that would have harmful impacts. Director Ashe put those rumors to rest by clearly stating that he will not introduce any wolves into Utah.”
During the same hearing, Stewart asked Ashe about working with local communities on prairie dog issues.
The question comes as Iron County waits for a ruling from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals as to whether or not USFWS will regain control over the management of the prairie dog.
The appeal is in response to a 2014 ruling by Utah’s U.S. District Judge Dee Benson that invalidated a 2012 administrative rule extending protections to the animal on nonfederal property. Benson returned management of the species on nonfederal land back to the state.
The ruling was a significant win for Iron County whose residents largely advocate that wildlife management should be under the authority and control of local leadership.
Ashe committed to Stewart he will still work with local conservation plans regarding the prairie dog regardless of the outcome of the suit.
Stewart told Cedar City News the state and counties have already done a better job of managing the prairie dogs.
“If the Fish and Wildlife Service prevails, it doesn’t make any sense to go back to the old way of managing the prairie dogs,” he said. “The state managed approach has just been successful for growth of the species and growth of the economy in these counties. In the congressional hearing, I was able to get Director Ashe to say that they will work with local communities on prairie dog issues instead of mandating from above.”
Stewart told Cedar City News he was prepared to use his position on the Appropriations Committee to hold Ashe and the USFWS accountable for the director’s comments.
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